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A stellar year for Alice Tai and Britain's para-swimmers means future looks bright

As 2019 draws to a close, Martin Lees, Swim England Para-swimming Development Manager, looks back on his top para-swimming moments during the last 12 months.

Para-swimming has certainly been in the spotlight in 2019.

The achievements of Alice Tai and her fellow British swimmers at the World Para-swimming Championships at the London Aquatics Centre has helped to raise the profile of the sport.

Alice needs a new trophy cabinet after winning seven gold medals in the space of seven days. Add to that the accolades she has received since – including being named The Sunday Times’ Disability Sportswoman of the Year – and you can see why it’s been a stellar year for her.

Ellie Challis made her international debut at the World Para-swimming Championships and picked up a bronze medal in the Women’s 50m Backstroke S3.

Four months prior to that, Ellie was still on the Swim England Para-swimming Talent programme.

It’s been a remarkable rise for Ellie and one that was capped off with her being named SportsAid’s One-to-Watch and picking up a Swim England National Award as well.

With the Paralympics coming up in 2020, the future is looking bright for all our para-swimmers.

Launch of Start Para-swimming

This is a new initiative launched by Swim England to get more young disabled people with an eligible impairment into swimming.

After a successful pilot in Manchester, which has seen more than 40 young children join Start Para-Swimming, we now have a model which we are looking to replicate throughout England.

The pilot in Manchester has recently seen five swimmers join City of Manchester Swim Team as category two members and are now waiting to be classified to compete as para-swimmers.

Working with hospitals

The Swim England Para-swimming team has been working closely with two hospitals – Chelsea and Westminster and the Manchester Royal Children’s Hospital – to encourage young people with eligible impairments into the sport.

We have engaged with the hospital workforce and due to the success and demand for this to happen again, we are looking to host some type of hospital aquatic games in Manchester.


The Para-Swimming Talent team has been working on new ways to deliver information to athletes and the para-swimming community.

This year, we have created a range of podcasts on a number of subjects, such as Christmas-themed nutrition advice.

The podcasts have been a big hit and athletes, parents and coaches have found them thought provoking and also great to listen to whilst on the way to training – and the long drives to competitions!

Coach development programme

Building on the success of the last year, we have enhanced the para-swimming coach development programme to include multiple levels.

We had more coaches apply than spaces available, which has shown the demand for a para-swimming coach development programme.

We now have coaches engaged at regional level, delivering talent programme activities at regional training.

Some of those coaches have been invited to coach on the England national camps and be given bespoke guidance from the talent coaches.